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City council supports order by DeSantis

By Staff | Apr 6, 2020

Following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ statewide stay-at-home directive last week, the Sanibel City Council held an emergency meeting on April 1 to acknowledge the executive order and signal its support.

At the meeting, the council voted 5-0 to adopt a proclamation that acknowledges and supports Executive Order 20-91 issued by the governor, as well as to adopt any future adjustments made to it. After the vote, some council members questioned how the city would enforce the stay-at-home.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” Mayor Kevin Ruane said. “We’ll do the best we can.”

“We hope everyone will comply,” Councilmember Holly Smith added.

Also at the meeting, the council further discussed rental accommodations on the island. It had previously issued a proclamation in response to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic that prohibits “unlimited rentals” from accepting new guests or reservations from March 28 through April 24.

“But, there is a gap,” Ruane said of a loophole. “So, I’m just trying to tweak that.”

“I’m advocating that there are no new accommodations,” he added.

Following discussion on the subject, the council voted 5-0 to add to the earlier restrictions. The proclamation directs “limited” rentals as defined by the Sanibel Code to cancel existing reservations and refrain from accepting new guests or making new reservations for stays from April 2 to 30.

City Attorney John Agnew pointed to some exceptions for the council to consider.

The council agreed to add the following exceptions to the language:

– Guests who are checking in and staying on Sanibel as of April 1 are permitted to remain for the duration of their stay, whether in their current rental or another limited rental

– Limited rentals with a written lease for six months or longer

– Essential lodgers of limited rentals that provide them to Sanibel residents who must vacate their home due to fire or flood or that provide them to Sanibel residents escaping domestic violence

The new proclamation does not affect the ability of an owner of a condo, timeshare or other property that is periodically rented out from staying in his or her property for some or all of the restricted period.

Also at the meeting, Ruane provided the rest of the council with an update on the city’s financials.

He reported that some part-time employees, such as lifeguards at the temporarily closed Sanibel Recreation Center and traffic aides for the intersections, have been furloughed because there was no work to reassign them to. Ruane noted that their jobs still stand, it is just a temporary disconnect.

“Those are the only cuts we’ve made thus far,” he said.

Ruane also reviewed the status of various city funds and possible revenue streams, including transportation and tolls, gas tax, beach parking, sinking fund, emergency line of credit and more.

“The good news is we have a lot of cash,” he said.

Ruane explained that he and staff are working to identify what cash is available and where the potential shortfalls may be, similar to the approach he took in 2007-2009 when the city faced financial distress.

“Many of these attributes will be very similar to what we did in the past,” he said.

“The name of the game is preserving cash,” Ruane added.

To watch the meeting, visit mysanibel.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=1437.